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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: November 2009

5 - Islamic law: God's law or men's law?


The present chapter aims to provide a detailed historical overview of Islamic law in comparative perspective. It seeks to demonstrate that Islamic law, too, is built on a notion of plurality-consciousness and can be examined within the triangular model of global legal theory explored in the present study. In comparison with Hindu law, scholarship on Islamic law seems to be much more securely anchored around the world. This does not mean that knowledge about Islamic law is better developed or that its place within a plurality-focused global analysis is easier to define. Scholarship on Islamic law is spread widely, available in many different languages apart from Arabic and English, and so diffuse in terms of approaches, sectarian and school traditions that a full overview is impossible. The present analysis concentrates on those aspects that further understanding of how Islamic law, as a religion-based legal system, manages to reconcile the doctrinal centrality of religious belief with its inherent plurality of socio-cultural manifestations. It is a case study mainly in how natural law and socio-legal approaches interact, while concepts of state positivism are not absent. This chapter highlights how Islamic law has achieved and largely maintained a sophisticated degree of plurality-consciousness, albeit often obfuscated by theological polemics and political rhetoric.

The chapter explores in depth the tensions within Islamic law concerning its claims to uniformity and global validity and the pluralities created by human social and political life.

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